Partners for Change Workshop (Tenant Engagement)

November 6, 2014

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Partners for Change Workshop!
The event was an outstanding success!

Read our Event Summary (PDF)

The original event invitation follows.

Engaging residential tenants in energy conservation was the focus of over 40 apartment building owners, property managers, utility representatives and other experts at the Partners for Change workshop on Thursday November 6, 2014. The workshop was co-delivered by the City of Toronto’s Tower Renewal Office and ALERT, and it was generously sponsored by Enbridge and hosted by Autodesk.

Keir Brownstone from the Tower Renewal Office served as a moderator for the opening panel discussion. The four panelists included: Randy Daiter, Vice President of Residential Properties, M&R Holdings, Vera Straka, Associate Professor of Architectural Science at Ryerson University, Anne Gloger, Founding member of East Scarborough Storefront and Ravi Subramaniam, lead for resident engagement in Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office and St. James Town.

Each panelist provided a brief overview of the challenges and successes of resident engagement projects in general and those related to energy savings.

Following the panel discussion the meeting broke into groups to identify and brainstorm around the most compelling ideas that had been presented.

The group coalesced around two main ideas: building a sound business case for investing in tenant engagement; and creating a Community of Practice to regularly share ideas.

A sound business case is needed to convince building owners to support tenant engagement programs. Costs could include dedicated staff time, but these need to be balanced with measuring the social benefits, some of which are less tangible i.e., happier tenants, pride of place, etc.

Communities of Practice have successfully facilitated shared knowledge in other sectors, and they have the potential of catalyzing positive change for energy conservation in apartment buildings. They are forums where best practices can be shared and where members can encourage one another. Tower Renewal has amassed several case studies of successful projects that can potentially be replicated in other buildings.

These two ideas are complementary, with the business case establishing the rational, logical impetus for action, and the communities of practice fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Other ideas included education for residents and building landlords, tenant relations, getting kids involved and modelling after successful recycling programs, and celebrating the success of existing programs.

As the next step, ALERT and the office of Tower Renewal will work closely with stakeholders to identify tangible steps around the two main ideas identified by the group.

Summary of panel discussion

Keir Brownstone from the Tower Renewal Office served as a moderator for the opening panel discussion. Keir, who has spent many years in social housing in Ontario and energy related building initiatives, provided a historical overview of resident engagement in energy related experiences in landmark projects in Germany, in the U.S. and closer to home at Toronto Community Housing. Keir’s remarks set the stage for the four panelists to share their success stories.

Randy Daiter described how M&R’s process of ‘Share, Listen, Partner and Repeat’ has begun to show consistent positive returns. They start a change project by sharing their vision first with building staff and then with tenants and ask and listen to feedback. On many projects from window replacement to recycling to toilet replacement, tenant suggestions provided positive insights that were subsequently implemented.

Vera Straka’s most recent project will result in a model for an educational platform on tenant engagement in energy saving. Tenants were divided into groups. Using meters in each unit, different groups received energy use data immediately, daily, or weekly, and some were able to compare their use to their neighbours. This project is still in pilot stage and preliminary results will be available in 3 months.

Working at East Scarborough Storefront, Anne Gloger found poverty is a contributing factor to a lack of tenant engagement. She strongly recommends taking the time to build a tenant council, to put community development process ahead of product development, i.e. implementing a structural change and ensuring that residents own part of the process. They built community buy-in initially involving residents in design of sports court, splash pads, shading projects, and improving accessibility.

Ravi Subramaniam manages 11 buildings and initially found only about 20% of tenants came out for meetings. He developed an ambassador program enlisting people who gathered in the lobby to talk to other people in the buildings. He found that community gatherings helped create a sense of belonging and pride in place in which residents work with landlords to care for the building.

Participating organizations:


City of Toronto-Tower Renewal Office

City of Toronto-Solid Waste Management Services

City of Toronto-Parks, Forestry & Recreation

City of Toronto-Shelter, Support & Housing Administration

East Scarborough Storefront

Enbridge Gas (Premier Sponsor)




Housing Services Corporation

M&R Holdings


Now House

Park Property

Q Residential

Ryerson University


Toronto Community Housing Corporation

Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

Transfert Environment and Society

WJ Properties

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